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Monday, January 12, 2004

Shameless Seeks Professional Help

Breaking Up During The War…

My friends and family said she was a heartbreaker; that she was no good for me, that my loyalty and obsession to her would eventually destroy me…What did they know? None of them really knew her like I did. To me, she always represented the best in life; she was the consummate independent free spirit…

About three years ago, it all started to turn sour. I tried to reason with her, but it was as if she expected me to turn a blind eye to her increasingly erratic, antisocial behavior. Our longtime friends, unable to stomach her Jekyll and Hyde personality, began to make themselves scarce. It hurt, but who could blame them? To make matters worse, she had bounced several checks, and to my dismay, had even cashed in the trust funds we’d set up for our children. In spite of all this, we’re still together, and thanks to numerous trips to a therapist, our relationship is still hanging on-- by a thread. I want this relationship to work, I really do, but I’m not sure how much more I can take. To help you understand what we’re going through, I thought I’d share with you, my closest friends, a transcript from one of our therapy sessions. (Dr. Hertz records the session on video, and suggests that we watch ourselves in order to enhance our ability to communicate with one another). I hope being frank, honest and open with our struggle can be of some use to others going through the same experience. Tell me what you think…

The setting is a well-appointed psychologists office. Dr. Hertz is seated in a comfortable office chair in front of his desk, and the two of us sit before him on either end of a comfortable leather couch.

DH: “ O.K., before we begin, I’d just like to remind the two of you that we’ve agreed to ground rules prior to this session. First of all, you both need to use “I” statements to indicate how you truly feel. For example, Steve, rather than saying, “You’re trampling my right to free speech underfoot, you might say, “I need to have the freedom to express my views on this war without feeling threatened”. In the first sentence you’re expressing your needs, and then these needs and be addressed and worked out. The second approach can be seen as criticism, and might lead to a defensive reaction…Our ultimate goal is honest, heartfelt conversation…Do you understand?

Steve: (tentatively, fidgeting in his chair), Yes. I think I understand.

DH: (Relaxed, composed, in his element), Fine, then shall we begin?

America: (leaning forward and pointing at Steve), If you don’t love me, why don’t you leave me? You never support me in anything! Asshole!

DH: Whoah! Didn’t you just hear what I said about “I” statements?

America: Oh, I’m sorry. I thought that only applied to him…Can I try again?

DH: Sure.

America: Well, ever since 9-11 I’ve felt as though I’ve been under the gun, you know, and when Steve questioned my administration’s “War on Terror” response, well, I guess I just lost it. It still burns my toast. The way I see it, if you’re not with me through the hardest times, you’re against me.

DH: Give me an “I statement” to summarize your thoughts, America.

America: (She rolls her eyes and snaps her gum), Fine…When Steve and his friends criticized my actions following September 11th, I felt betrayed. There…Are you happy now?

Steve: (He leans toward her in an imploring manner). America, it wasn’t that I didn’t feel the same anger and rage you felt, it was just a matter of the way you handled the situation. Maybe if you didn’t wage war against an intangible concept, I could have supported you, but don’t you think, if you had treated the attack as a crime against humanity rather than an act of war, we’d have a lot more support from France, Germany, Canada, and--

America: (Furious), Canada! What are you, obsessed with her! Do you see what I have to put up with! It’s always Canada this and Canada that. Canada has free healthcare! Canada has less crime! All he ever does is compare me with some other country. I feel like I never do anything right….

Steve: Darling,( leaning forward now, pleading his case to her as well as the doctor), I know I don’t tell you enough, but I really do love you, it’s just that, well, you’ve changed…You’re not the same girl I fell for…

America: (Sobbing)…I’m just being myself…You just can’t accept me for who I am, you bastard!

Steve: (With a far away, misty look in his eyes). I remember; it was back in the summer of 1991. Thousands of students had flooded Tiennamen Square; the heart of communist China. Tears came to my eyes when I saw them raise a replica of Lady Liberty…I was a proud day for me…For us, America. Don’t you remember what that was like, honey? Those were hopeful times…The Berlin wall had just come done and it seemed as thought the chimes of freedom were ringing in the air, and when they thought of you, they thought of freedom…I can’t sleep at night sometimes, wondering what they think of you now—a Camp X-ray jackboot and “shock and awe”—winning hearts and minds with your smart bombs… I know you think I’m being hard on you, baby, but that’s how I really feel...Sweetheart, I still care for you, and want this relationship to work, but you have to face up to the facts…You’ve alienated all our friends, you’ve bankrupted the treasury…

America: (Bitterly), Well, Freedom isn’t free! We spent 8 years ignoring our responsibility under Clinton…

Steve: Raising his voice for the first time, There you go again! He hasn’t been president for three years, and yet you blame him for everything! Were eight years of relative peace and prosperity too much for you to bear? Sure, he got the occasional hummer under the desk, but you’re not exactly lily white either, are you? When are you going to take responsibility for what you’re doing now, and the policies that have been guiding your actions since you started seeing George? The Project for the New American Century outlined--

DH: Steve, you’re forgetting your “I statements” again.

Steve: Sorry. I feel as though you’re blaming problems with our current relationship on a past relationship, I also feel anger because I feel George is screwing you and you’re not being honest with me about it.

America: (Indignantly), He’s…he’s… not screwing me! That’s a lie!

Steve: Oh Come on! You’ve spent over 150 billion on this war, and there’s no end in sight! The Clean Air Act has been gutted! The Clean water act has been eviscerated! All our friends have turned against us! The Turks won’t help us, the coalition is fragmenting, and Tony’s not even returning your calls these days. Forty soldiers have already died this month, and you’re in serious denial!

DH: “I statements! I statements!”.

Steve: (Regaining decorum, speaking softly now), I feel as though we should reconsider our relationship with the rest of the world…I feel we should spend less money on bombs, and more on schools and healthcare…I feel as though you’ve become reactionary and aggress-

America: (Shouting him down), SHUT UP! SHUT UP! You know what you are? You’re a TRAITOR! You’re giving aid and comfort to the enemy!

DH: Those are some pretty serious charges, America…Do you really believe that?

Steve: Well, do you, America?…Is that the way you really feel? Is any criticism a crime now?

America: She falters…I…I…

DH: Noticeably shaken…She’s obviously emotionally distraught…She’s a basket case! Look what you’ve done to her!…This is the textbook definition of an emotionally abusive relationship! You should be ashamed of yourself!

Steve: Taken aback…But I…I was only trying to be honest…to help heal our relationship…Please, honey, listen to me…

DH: (Indignant)…After all she’s been through! How could you, you inhuman monster…She lost a lot of people she loved in the World Trade Center, or perhaps you’ve forgotten…According to the Patriot Act, I believe I have to report this to the Department of Homeland Security…Don’t worry, Cuba’s quite nice this time of year…

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